Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Car Sharks

Our 13-year-old mini-van is nearing the end. The instrument panel has so many "service" lights burning, it could double as Christmas decorations. When I tried changing tires a couple weeks ago, the tire jack couldn't lift the car without puncturing the rusty frame. If I had everything repaired that needs repairs, the cost would bankrupt my pension.

But there's one thing scarier than driving around a rusting hulk with more strange sounds than the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld: visiting the showroom of a new car dealer.

I hate, hate, hate dealing with new car salesmen. I think that was even before an incident several years ago when we purchased and drove home what we thought was a brand new vehicle, only to find out it was two years old when we played the new car owner's video guide lying on the back seat. Argghhhhhh!

Anyway, I checked the internet, watched the ads, and started pricing likely suspects. It appears that Chrysler is the only domestic dealer that makes mini-vans anymore. I saw an advertisement for a 2010 Town and Country for under $19,000. Not bad. Wife Wendy heard on the radio that they have employee pricing for everyone. I called a salesman and he kinda confirms that we should get a great price on this car.

This dealer is about 40 miles away but for a good deal, we'll drive that far. Found the dealership and asked for Chris, the salesman I talked to on the phone. And . . . it's like the phone call never happened. Suddenly, under $19,000 became over $25,000! What??

Now here's the scam. From what I see, all the Chrysler advertisements for new cars in the area newspapers are full of rebates that the average car buyer would never qualify for. In order to get the advertised price, the buyer has to be a Chrysler employee, be a member of the miltary too, must be turning in a leased Chrysler vehicle earlier than the contracted lease period, have a daughter named Bob and be able to stand on his head for 30 minutes while juggling balls with his feet.

In otherwords, very few qualify to get this car for the advertised price. We said so long to Chris and wondered if our mini-van could possibly make it to 300,000 miles (it's already well past 200,000).

This week, in our local newspaper, there was another ad for a Town and Country for under $19,000 at a local dealership. OK, new plan. I'm not even going down to the sales lot until I get a commitment on a price over the phone (is anybody out there chuckling at my naivete?)

I do call and get Tiffany, a new car salesperson, on the phone. I told her I assume that the advertised price is for Chrysler employees. Yes, I am told. So what kind of deal can an average Joe like myself get for the same car.

She says she doesn't know. (Doesn't know???) She says I would have to come down to the showroom, pick out a vehicle, then she would see what rebates I qualify for and then give me a price. But she says they are selling cars at "rock bottom" prices. I wonder if that's any better than the "great deal" the other salesman promised.

Couldn't she at least give me a ballpark figure so I know I'm not wasting my time, and my wife's time, driving down there? Apparently not. She refused to quote me any price whatsoever. But she told me to come down and she would have several vehicles ready for me to test drive. There was even a $25 gift card in it for me just for visiting.

I told her I would get back with her.

In the meantime, I think I'll pump a little more air into my Schwinn. If the mini-van goes, at least I'll have a back-up.


Blogger Carine said...

totally understandable. 7-3/4 years ago, the purchasing of my PT only became "pleasant" when we handled it this way Dave: First we went to our local dealer and I gave it a test drive. of course they insisted on giving me the "price" and monthly fee that "would surely beat my teacher's credit union deal"
Then I called the said credit union. asked him what choices I had for what I required. He told me the price-complete w/ taxes and what my loan would be. all I had to do was pick my color.
I did, it was brought up via an agency in San Diego and my husband and I picked it up!

My apr was over a percent less than the agency's, no one bugged me and it was over w/ me behind the wheel w/in about 45 minutes.

I hate going to dealerships-we did have a very good experience both times we bought an infiniti, so I would go through them if ever the need arises. But since I only leave the house for dr's appts and shopping that won't happen for a good long while.

do you have a credit union that has an auto purchasing option? check it out.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--We do purchase our new cars through our credit union but they don't offer much better than what else is out there. They do offer a discount program through our employer but the dealers claim it's not worth that much. Trying to stick with the "big three" since the auto industry is so important to the state here. Thanks for the advice.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Loyalty to the local manufacturers is great Dave, but its not much use if you are the only one practicing it.
Check out the imports too, some of their deals over here are great.

3:05 AM  
Blogger TechnoBabe said...

You are right to be wary. Car sales men and women are taught to work the deal and to go back and forth to the manager for the back and forth dickering prices. It just makes my stomach turn. Like you, we have bikes and they are great for all the local errands.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A minivan? What, are you a soccer mom hauling the boys to soccer practice, watching dancing with the stars and power walking around the mall before it opens. Step your game up and get a SUV. Shouldn't you be going through a mid life crisis and getting a sports car or motorcycle. Your probably the same guy who does 20 mock drafts before selecting your fantasy football team. (Look at the GMC Terrain or Chevy Equinox)

7:12 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ Thanks for your comments and the fire was scary at the time. I have learned since (tell Wendy)
that you put a lid over the pan to deprive it of oxygen or a fire
blanket, even an old towel.
Glad you liked the Purina diet joke.
I hope you have better luck getting a new van - they should not be allowed to advertise one price, and then try to charge another price.
False advertising?? Meanwhile I hope your own bus keeps going for a while yet. Take care, Regards,

11:28 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

PETER--The imports over there could be the same cars I'm looking at over here, right? Do they make an Australian car? The imports seem to cost quite a bit over here. And I'm pretty cheap.

TECHNOBABE--That haggling back and forth is just what I want to avoid. If the price the salesman offers is way too high, we just get up and walk out.

ANONYMOUS--We have a small SUV now but really like the mini-van's ability to haul up to seven passengers, and cargo if we take out the seats. Twenty mock drafts are paying off since I've risen to third place and have a 50-point lead already in this week's game.

MERLE--I think it is absolutely false advertising. I just quizzed Wendy on how to stop a grease fire. She said baking soda, so I told her about your solutions as well.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

Car sharks are one reason that we drive '74 Mercedes Benzes - we own three of them - (Bittersweet, Bessie and Project) and make our own biodiesel from local restaurant grease. They are absolutely dependable and GREEN, GREEN, GREEN!

Congrats on your skunk bears' blundering, butter-fingered, maladroit victory over pitiful Purdue! It was lubberly to watch!


11:12 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

YOGA IN MIRRORMONT--Three '74 Mercedes that run on restaurant grease?! Uh, huh. Didn't you once say too that you converted your TV into an aquarium, which leads me to wonder how you watched my Wolverines there in Washington.

Methinks that, like a lot of Spartans, you specialize in spreading stuff that can be found in great abundance there at Moo U.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a Costco Membership? If so, and why wouldn't you, they have amazing deals on vehicles. They contact the dealership and do all the paperwork. All you need to do is tell them what vehicle and sign the paperwork. Zero percent interest, cash back...blah blah blah. Their prices are just above cost, which is lower than a vet working for GM ever could get. Good Luck

9:46 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

ANONYMOUS--Don't have a Costco membership as there is not a Costco store within 20 miles, but I did check out their program. Sounds very similar to a "preferred buyer" program they have at work. In the end, that program wouldn't have saved me very much though.

7:18 PM  

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